Opinion: How to defeat haters on the Internet

The best part about Twitter? You can retweet your haters.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)
Guest blogger

Last week, the perpetually outraged feminist/progressive blogger Amanda Marcotte announced that she planned to delete permanently the “mentions” feed on her @AmandaMarcotte Twitter account because -- boo hoo! -- people were saying so many mean things about her.

“In the past few months (years?), most of what I get is harassment from users harboring a bilious hatred of feminists. Or, sometimes, just a hatred of me, a person they do not know,” she wrote for Slate, one of her numerous blogging outlets.

Marcotte’s beef this time was that a lot of people took issue with -- or, more frequently, found hilariously off-the-wall -- an earlier Slate post of hers in which she, citing a sociological study, denounced the idea of cooking for your husband and children as an imposition on women’s time, money and emotional well-being. “The main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It’s expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway,” Marcotte wrote. Her post originally bore the title “The Tyranny of the Home-Cooked Family Dinner.” Someone at Slate softened that to “Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner,” but you can find the original title if you search the page for the word “tyranny.”


Well! Here’s what happened on Twitter, according to Marcotte:

“The most common tactic was to ‘diagnose’ me, arguing that I am crazy and unloved and therefore I hate dinner, families, and perhaps joy itself. The right wing website Twitchy sent most of it my way by calling me a ‘perpetual victim,’ even though I did not mention my own relationship to cooking and the post had nothing at all to do with me. ... ‘She’s not snarky, just bitchy and miserable. And you know what they say about misery loving company and all...’ wrote a self-appointed Twitter psychologist. ... ‘Marcotte is a complete and utter crackpot who seems to really hate families,’ said another.”

All of this reads like a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Marcotte is known all over the blogosphere for her virulent tirades against almost everybody she deems to harbor sexist misogyny -- and that’s a lot of people.

She’s the blogger who resigned from John Edwards’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 after someone uncovered posts in which she offended Catholics -- a key Democratic constituency -- by blasting the anti-abortion Catholic Church for forcing women to bear children and, according to the Washington Post, sarcastically suggesting that the Virgin Mary would have taken the emergency contraceptive Plan B. She blogged about the 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case: “Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.” The charges against the lacrosse players were dropped in 2007 amid evidence that the alleged victim had fabricated her story.

Amanda Marcotte’s pity party over her cooking post is part of a disturbing trend among women in the media who get hit with nasty criticism to declare categorically that the Web itself is innately hostile to women. This was the theme of a lengthy January 2014 article in the Pacific Standard, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” by another writer named Amanda, Amanda Hess. Hess described the threats of rape and other violence she and other women had received from tweeters and other commenters after the women wrote about feminist topics:

“But no matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment -- and the sheer volume of it -- has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. ... And as the Internet becomes increasingly central to the human experience, the ability of women to live and work freely online will be shaped, and too often limited, by the technology companies that host these threats, the constellation of local and federal law enforcement officers who investigate them, and the popular commentators who dismiss them -- all arenas that remain dominated by men, many of whom have little personal understanding of what women face online every day.”

Jezebel’s Lindy West picked up the theme, praising Hess’ article as “an incredibly thorough, enraging investigation of the ways that internet ‘trolls’ (with help from IRL law enforcement, who treat the web like a ‘fantasyland’) systematically and deliberately drive women out of online spaces.”


Time for a reality check. Yes, the Internet, because it affords the protection of anonymity to nearly everyone who wants it, can be a hostile place, giving twisted minds full opportunity to verbalize whatever gross and violent images cross them without fear of reprisal. Those twisted minds frequently belong to men.

But not always. In 2008 I wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which I called my fellow women “stupid” -- for their propensity toward mindless conformity and their susceptibility to arguments based on emotion, not reason (call me “bilious”). This was before Twitter got off the ground, so I received more than 700 e-mails, mostly anonymous. Many of the writers wished for my death, and many more indulged in a level of scatology that I had never thought anyone would want to conceptualize. From their self-descriptions, the vast majority of the writers were women.

If you can dish it out, you’ve got to be able to take it. My advice to Marcotte and others: Instead of feeling injured and victimological, retweet. Your followers will love it. Retweeting is the best revenge.

Charlotte Allen writes frequently about feminism, politics and religion. Follow her on Twitter @MeanCharlotte.

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